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Society's Lens

Posted on 21 December 2015

Annie Leibovitz is a name synonymous with portrait photography. Throughout her career, she has captured some of the biggest names in the world and worked for some of the most prestigious magazines ever to grace the news stands.

During her time at Rolling Stone in the 1970's, Leibovitz’s signature style started to find its feet. When the magazine began printing in colour in 1974, she followed suit. “In school, I wasn’t taught anything about lighting, and I was only taught black-and-white,” she told ARTnews in 1992, “So I had to learn colour myself.” She began to champion the use of bold, primary colours and soon adopted unusual poses for her subjects often unseen in print. Think of the most iconic magazine covers in history and many have been the work of Leibovitz. Her shot of a naked John Lennon contrasted with a clothed Yoko Ono was taken hours before his death and was used for the Rolling Stone commemorative issue.

Her book ‘Women’, published in 1999, celebrated women from all walks of life and showcased portraits of Supreme Court Justices to Vegas showgirls both in and out of costume. Everyday women shared the pages with the likes of Susan Sarandon and Diane Sawyer. Leibovitz has always had a knack for capturing women at their strongest, as the embodiment of power and femininity. From her portrait of Demi Moore, pregnant and naked, to her role in the birth of Caitlyn Jenner, Leibovitz’s work exudes a kind of kinetic energy that makes the subject jump off the page.

In her latest project Leibovitz is behind the lens shooting the 2016 Pirelli Calendar; which this year is leaving behind the tried-and-tested 'nudie shots' in favour of powerfully intimate portraits of the women who have shaped society.

The calendar will feature Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Serena Williams, Fran Lebowitz, Amy Schumer, Tavi Gevinson, Ava DuVernay, Natalia Vodianova, Agnes Gund, Kathleen Kennedy, Mellody Hobson, Shirin Neshat, and Yao Chen.

I started to think about the roles that women play, women who have achieved something. I wanted to make a classic set of portraits. I thought that the women should look strong but natural, and I decided to keep it a very simple exercise of shooting in the studio,” Leibovitz said in a release. “This calendar is so completely different. It is a departure. The idea was not to have any pretense in these pictures and be very straightforward.”

Leibovitz is showing no signs of disappearing from the industry and we expect her work to continue to capture and document the energy and heart behind the most important societal changes of our time.

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